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How “The Hobbit” was Brought to Israeli Readers

Jan. 25 2018

From the end of the Six-Day War in 1967 until 1970, Israel fought a low-intensity conflict, known as the “war of attrition,” with Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO. Ten Israeli air-force pilots were captured in the final year; after four months of solitary confinement, all were thrown into a single cell. Around that time, one of the pilots received a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Chen Malul describes what happened next:

The four pilots in the cell [with a solid grasp of English] decided to translate The Hobbit for those who would find it hard to understand. The pilots initially translated specific words and expressions. It did not take them long to discover that the work distracted them from their life in captivity, and soon they found themselves working day after day, for many long hours, on translating the entire book.

The work was done in pairs—one reading the text in English and translating it to Hebrew on the spot. The second’s job was to be an editor: to improve the Hebrew translation and adjust it to the high level of Tolkien’s original work. The many poems in the book presented a complex challenge, and the four turned to their cellmates for help. They later related that “we failed slightly with the poems in the book.” Under the circumstances in which the unprofessional translators found themselves, a labor of love would suffice. The entire project took four months, and it’s unlikely they thought the translation they worked so hard on while in captivity would ever be read outside the walls of their cramped cell.

The prisoners, who were released from captivity only after the Yom Kippur War, [returned to Israel] bearing a well-used copy of The Hobbit, along with seven full notebooks. In 1977, the Hebrew translation done by the pilots and their cellmates was published with financial support from the air force.

There are currently three published Hebrew translations of The Hobbit. . . . The one by the pilots and their comrades is considered the lowest-quality translation of the three, but it’s the translation I grew up on.

Read more at The Librarians

More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew, Israeli history, J. R. R. Tolkien, Translation, War of Attrition

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen